- By HarperCollins
The following letter to Native News Online readers was written by author and filmmaker Brian Young, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He grew up on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Brian earned his BA in Film Studies at Yale University and his MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. Brian currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Hi, everyone! I am very excited to talk about my upcoming book, Heroes of the Water Monster, the companion novel to my first book, Healer of the Water Monster. When writing Heroes of the Water Monster, I referred to a collection of traditional Diné stories called the Hero Twin Stories. These are my favorite myths. And I would love to share the stories that I grew up with to help celebrate the upcoming release of my book.
It has been said that not long after the First Beings emerged into the Fourth World, having been exiled from the Third World by Mother Water Monster, they set about establishing their homesites. One morning, the First Beings heard the cries of a baby. They came upon a mountain and found an infant girl. In one day, she turned into a child. The next day, she became an adolescent. The fourth day, she was a fully grown woman. That is why she is called Changing Woman.
After some time passed, Changing Woman was accosted by Father Sun, who would watch her on the surface of the Fourth World as he traveled across the sky. One morning, Changing Woman found that she was pregnant. She gave birth to twin boys a few days later.
In that era, the Era of Human-Eating Enemies, the Fourth World was a dangerous place. Enemies of the Diné caused great harm and destruction to everything around them. They took many forms, both small and large, singular and numerous. Among them was Ye’ii Tsoh, a giant man, who would eat entire villages and drink entire lakes. There was the enormous Thunderbird, who created great storms to hunt traveling humans. There were the Cliff Beings, who would make humans dizzy so they would fall over cliffs to their deaths.
After the twins grew up, they began to ask who their father was. Changing Woman avoided answering them. But curiosity got the better of the twins. They left the safety of their homesite to find their father. They searched far and wide but only discovered suffering and danger.
Eventually, they encountered Spider Woman, who told them their father was Father Sun! Being his sons, the twins could use his sacred arrows and armor to make the Fourth World safe. Spider Woman then informed them how to reach Father Sun’s home in the realm of the celestial beings.
After traveling to the top of a southern sacred mountain, Tsoodził, the twins entered the realm of the celestial beings and found Father Sunʼs hogan. There, they met Father Sunʼs family, including his wife, Twilight Lady. No one believed that the twins were Father Sun’s sons. So he tested them with four trials. After the boys passed those tests, Father Sun accepted them as his sons, much to Twilight Lady’s chagrin.
The twins borrowed Father Sun’s sacred arrows and armor and then returned to the Fourth World. The older brother, named Enemy Slayer, would confront the Enemy, while the younger brother, Born for Water, would send protective prayers from their mother’s hogan. For their efforts, they were named the Hero Twins.
I was often told that the ancient Enemies of the Diné were metaphors for dangerous natural forces. And in line with that methodology, I discovered a Modern Enemy that reflects current anxieties toward the dangers of climate change. In my new book, Heroes of the Water Monster, the powerful Yitoo Bi’aanii, the oldest water monster sibling, suspects a monstrous Enemy has emerged and is stealing water from the Navajo Nation.
Two themes in my book are siblinghood and identity. Because his mom is moving in with Edward’s dad, Nathan feels forced to accept Edward as a stepbrother. Yitoo is the older sister of Dew, the young water monster that Nathan has been taking care of for the past two years. Meanwhile, Edward struggles to find an identity encompassing both his Anglo and Diné ancestry in a world where blood quantum exists.
In their search for the Modern Enemy, stepbrothers Nathan and Edward and Water Monsters Dew and Yitoo must confront their pasts and their inner selves if they are to save the Fourth World from a devastating disaster.
For more information on Heroes of the Water, click here.
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